FARGO — Give Tommy Fisher credit. In the rush to grift off a grifter's presence in the White House, Fisher has positioned his North Dakota-based company to rake in billions of dollars in taxpayer money.
Tommy was smart enough to see that President Donald Trump is impressed by empty promises and emptier bravado. Tommy leveraged that to land Dickinson's Fisher Industries about $2 billion in government contracts to build walls along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Bright? Mmmm ...
That was shown recently in court proceedings in Texas, where Fisher is being sued along with fellow grifters such as Brian Kolfage and his sham organization We Build the Wall. Fisher built a substandard fence on private land along the Rio Grande River, spitting in the face of an international treaty, the U.S. government, the Mexican government and locals who said the 3-mile-long wall would exacerbate flooding problems.
A Texas judge, tired of foot-dragging by the likes of Fisher and We Build the Wall — and apparently swayed by a federal fraud indictment of Kolfage and his organization — finally ordered the case to go to trial in September 2021.
In the meantime, this little nugget emerged: The owners of the land on which the wall was built now owe $435,000 in property taxes that as yet are unpaid. That would be $435,000 in taxes that didn't exist before the wall was so hastily built.
Who is actually on the hook is still up in the air. Fisher was supposed to buy the land from local owners, but the sale hasn't been finalized for more than nine months because of surveying issues. Fisher told the Washington Post he's going to challenge the property tax bill.
Now, $435,000 might not seem like much since Fisher stands to make huge profits on the backs of taxpayers, but how the situation got to this point is beyond comical. Keystone Kontractor-type stuff.
Fisher intended to buy the 638 acres from the Neuhaus family on which he built the wall. Hidalgo County had the land zoned agricultural prior to the wall being built and appraised its value at $277,047, according to a report in The Monitor, the local newspaper. The tax bill was minimal.
As the wall was being built, the county reclassified the land as commercial because the construction was seen as an improvement. The county sent a letter, obtained by Forum News Service, informing the Neuhaus family that it was valuing the improvements — i.e., the wall — at $16 million per mile based on an independent analyst's estimate of building a border wall.
Based on the rezoning and improvements, the county revalued the entire property at $20.3 million and said the property taxes were $435,000.
The Monitor reported that Fisher said he's going to subdivide the property so he can buy only the 15-foot strip on which the wall stands, but there's no indication he can do that post-improvement.
So, as of now, someone is stuck with a nearly half-million dollar tax bill.
It is, as everything has been with Fisher's Texas border wall, a mess. All brought on by Fisher's desire to grift from the grift emanating from the White House.
Readers can reach columnist Mike McFeely at (701) 451-5655